Scouting for Reds

I’m a real sucker for a fleet. I enjoy the aspect of working together as a large group of people to achieve a single goal. Be it reinforcing a POS, locking down a system or even just looking for ratters, it’s much more fun as a group. Yesterday I got the pleasure of experiencing what has to happen to make a fleet come together. Quite often I occupy my time doing background tasks while sitting in my home station waiting for a fleet or Call to Arms. In this particular instance I had gone though my daily planetary interaction routine, refreshed my market orders and even spent some time doing my secretarial work for the Alliance. Usually I have three main methods of keeping an eye on what fleets are going while I work on other things. Firstly the “Reinforce Timer Info Portal” run by our Sponsor Group gives a good forewarning as to when fleets are likely to be heading where; in terms of station, POS bashes as well as Sovereignty Warfare fights. Next I have a pair of mailing lists, which forewarns of impending organised fleets, giving firm details as to their intended makeup and plans. Finally for spur of the moment engagements I keep a good eye on the information and organisation text channel for our Group and our Region. However tonight, on a whim I happened to glance at the Intel channel, and I was rewarded with the events which followed.
Looking at the Intelligence channel I spotted an FC asking for clarification on a group of 60 reds reported just inside enemy lines, looking very much like a gang forming up for a roam into our space. The FC was asking for further reports and a fleet composition breakdown as well as if we had any eyes on the enemy fleet. He received no response from the original reporter and I began to get interested. Between living very near to the space in which the fleet was reported and currently being based out of a station just a few jumps from the enemies system, I knew that I was currently only a few jumps away from the reported system (L-TOFR). Ignoring the gut feeling of dread knowing what I was volunteering for, I fired up a private communication channel with the FC and asked him if he would like me to do some reconnaissance in my Stealth bomber. To my horror he replied affirmatively.
Let me be clear on stealth bombers, I like stealth bombers. Stealth bombers (alone or in groups) can perform physical and psychological terror attacks on an enemy. We have locked down systems like LXQ before now just by being in the local after a long campaign. Within a fleet they are also insanely useful for cheap, quick, high DPS. Unfortunately once again I was going to be called on to do what I’m not so fond of doing, scouting. It’s a thankless job fraught with risk and, in this case, would probably end up with me watching the fleet I had been waiting on for the last few hours have fun popping the enemy. It is also however the speciality of my Alliance and, by its training, me. Duty called.
Arriving safely in L-LOFR I immediately warped away from the gate to an old deep safe I had tucked away in the neocom. I engaged the stealth systems hiding me and my ship invisible to both sensors and the naked eye until I desired to be seen, or closed within 2500m of another object. As soon as I landed in the safe I began the slow work of finding an enemy fleet using nothing but my wits and a directional scanner. Local showed 60 red FOF beacons in system but from my current location my scanner was only picking up 10. Normally I would have disregarded this set of ships as an AFK group or similar, but the fact that they were mostly Carrier class vessels caught my attention. The enemy would not deploy Carriers this close to the Red line without reason. For Carriers this meant one of two most things either they were preparing for a jump into our space; which I disregarded as they should have been able to jump from deeper inside their space away from scouts like me), or they were repairing a POS. Checking the system map and correlating it with the POS Reinforced Timers I soon found a POS which had just come out of incapacitation in the area of my scan. Warping to 100km of the listed Planet and Moon I found my first prize. As I un-puckered certain parts of my anatomy (you never know where you’ll come out of a blind warp to a moon with a POS and fleet on it), I found that I was a safe, 150km off of a large POS being repaired by a carrier fleet and a smattering of Logistics ships. Bookmarking my safe location I reported the finds to the FC (who had opened a comms channel with me) and continued on to find the rest of the enemy fleet.
Looking once again at the system map I found a location which would put my scanner in range of the planets not covered by my current and engaged my warp drive towards it. Landing on the planet and scanning the system on a 360 degree sweep, I found what I was looking for, a large number of Battleships and Battlecruisers. Pulling the scan angle down to 180 degrees I pulsed it once facing “north” (relative to my ship) with no results, and then once “south”, and hit the fleet again. Now I knew the fleet were behind me I halved the angle again to a 90 and hit the scan at the South East and South West quadrants finding hits in the SW. This gave me the fleet’s location at either planet 2 or 4 (as the only planets in the South West Quadrant). Using my ships centre point as a cross hair I aimed my scanner at planet 2 and narrowed the scan all the way down to a 20 deg and punched the activation, jackpot. Unfortunately my hunt wasn’t over; planet 2 had a selection of 17 moons, damn. Warping into the planet for a scan in the centre of all the moons, I started the process again, 180, 90 and then I had them. On a 90 deg NE scan I found the fleet and only 4 moons, enough to check each one with the Mk 1 Eyeball (or at least whatever I used to view the ships render of its surrounding). Typically on the last moon I found them. Each time I went into warp (at 100km of course, safety first) my Pod readouts showed extreme high stress levels, increased hear rate and during the final warp even a warning light on the colostomy tube. My surprise erased all hints of terror from my system as I let out an audible “what the hell”. Remembering that I was in a communications channel I immediately (mentally) cursed my unprofessionalism as the FC replied “What? Scout, report? What do you see?”.
Opening the Mic again I replied “Enemy fleet BS/BC attacking a POS, large Amarr”
“What, whos POS is it? One of ours” his incredulous reply came.
“Confirming sir, it’s an allied POS, Stella Polaris” I confirmed, trying my hardest to keep surprise from my voice.
“Ok scout received, I’m jacking this up to high command, keep eyes and await further orders”.
It didn’t take long for him to come back with more. “Ok scout I have a few orders for you, first I want you to get me the status of that POS”
“You want me to lock it sir?” which in my mind was pronounced “Oh shit no”
“Affirmative, just get out alive”
I shuddered; this was likely to get me killed very fast. I assessed my odds, I was now at 140km of the POS, with a Max targeting range of 80km, the enemy fleet was just off to the left of the POS from where I was and about 80km away from me now putting them around 30-40km away from me when I got to lock range. Oh well it was a cheap Stealth bomber any way, and maybe I could reship in time for the fleet. I began closing the distance to lock range. About half way there, The POS got unlucky and I got lucky.
“Scout break” I called joyously into the comms
“Go go”
“Friendly POS is in reinforced”
“How long till it comes back out?” In my joy of not losing a ship I hadn’t looked at the timer readout. I glanced now.
“Uh 59 minutes sir” and I was back to incredulous
“Timer reads fifty nine minutes standard, that is 5.9 Mike, 36 Sierra, sir”
“Oh gods….. Ok Hark, standing orders, gets me a full fleet composition report on this and the capital assets, then assign yourself as eyes on for the battleship fleet, awaiting further orders”
So the wait began, thankfully now I had managed to raise a couple of my Alliance mates on our private voice comms channel, so I settled down listening to them joining the fleet and making their own preparations to leave, occasionally giving system updates to the FC on any changes in the enemy fleet comp. Once the fleet started to mobilise I saw immediate changes in the enemy’s fleet, more began to arrive. By the time our fleet was one jump out from me, the enemy began warping to the gate our guys would arrive at. I reported this and got a “Confirmed” from the scout now watching the receiving jump gate. This was where I started making mistakes. I would like to refer you back to my reasons for not liking the Stealth Bomber, seeing that the fleet I had been watching was now about to engage the enemy, I interpreted my orders as being to keep on them until told otherwise. As well as being over eager and overzealous for kills, my head was also not entirely in the right place when I made my next choice, and because of this my decision was based on assumptions. The first was an assumption on intelligence; upon hearing “bubble is down” I assumed that this meant the warp disruption bubble which could suck me out of warp on the gate itself, instead of at the distance I requested, would be down allowing me to arrive at a distance I wanted from the gate. The second was on location; warping from the same location to the same location as the enemy fleet would be safe because of my first assumption, I would come out of warp behind the enemy fleet. The third was backup; When the FC called jump in, I assumed that his next order would be to attack the fleet, thus distracting them for my arrival and allowing me hit from behind, a small annoyance compared with the large fleet pounding on them from in front.
All three assumptions turned out to be completely and totally incorrect, the holoreal quote is I believe, “Assumption is the mother of all fuckups” and I was about to have triplets. As I heard the FC’s order to jump in I entered warp (having been aligned and awaiting my moment), on the same warp line as the enemy. Then I heard a second order seamlessly follow the first “hold cloaks”, too late to cancel warp, I swore profusely and loudly (remembering to disengage mic first). It didn’t matter, there was no bubble, I would just hold my own cloak 30 or 40 km behind the enemy fleet until they were otherwise occupied. Unfortunately there was still a warp disruption bubble, sitting in space like a large incorporeal magnet for warping space ships sucking any ships to its outer edge instead of where they had specified, this is exactly what it did to me. Instead of winding down warp-speed to real-space behind the enemy fleet I overshot to the edge of the bubble in the midst of the battleship fleet who had been drawn in similarly. My warp drive wound down and brought me to a speed at which the real-space engines could take over. I watched as an Armageddon slowly drew closer and closer on my proximity sensor, with no control as to my ships speed or direction until the warp drive handed me back control of the ship. It ticked down past 3000m and steadily towards the 2500m mark at which my cloak would be forced to disengage, two “safety” systems drawing me closer and closer to impending doom. Just as the navicomp handed controls back to me I watched the meter pass 2499m. Already pounding the warp button targeting the sun, my eyes were locked on the cloak status monitor pulsing, green… green…. green…. red “fuck”. I barely moved a few hundred meters before I was hammering into structure at a rate which would have shamed a shuttle. Alarms blaring and warning lights flashing I mentally prepared for EV. Still commanding ordering my ship to warp away to the sun, I watched as the Stealth Bomber disintegrated around me. A brief pause in my view feed as the ships systems, now no more than slag, stopped generating the digitalised view of reality and the pods own data stream started feeding into my head instead and I was thankfully away. Safe.
Without pausing to think I exfiltrated my capsule back to my home station and managed to reship into a close range battle ship and re-entered the fight in my preferred damage dealing role. The battle from here was mostly standard, sitting in the POS while logistics repaired it, and then pouncing into the enemy fleet when it came to try and stop our repair efforts, dealing coherent light death at close range to others. Although uneventful (apart from the unfortunate destruction of a Corp mates battleship due to a mistake on the FC’s behalf), I thoroughly enjoyed the battle especially as it was my first chance to try the Amarr battleships which I had recently cross trained myself too. I even enjoyed a place on a wonderful Imperial Navy Apocalypse kill totalling 1.5bill ISK value. Once again returning my pod to its nesting place deep in LS-JEP station, I was satisfied. I had played a vital role in the formation of a fleet which had won the day, and even then gone on from scouting to helping on the front lines, having a blast at the same time. Yup I’m a sucker for a fleet.

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